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100 a z book 2 tenochtit.., p.1

100 A.Z. (Book 2): Tenochtitlan, page 1

 part  #2 of  100 A.Z. Series

 

100 A.Z. (Book 2): Tenochtitlan
 

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100 A.Z. (Book 2): Tenochtitlan


  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead/undead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  Copyright 2017 Patrick Nelson

  [email protected]

  www.facebook.com/ptnelsonwriter

  In memory of Roger Dickinson. “Have you tried restarting your machine?”

  Prologue –1846 (169 B.Z.) The Mexican-American War

  The Irish-American soldiers yelled insults at their captors, as they dragged them to the gallows. They continued to shout as their crimes were described to the onlookers by the U.S. Army official. He looked at them with disgust. Traitors, deserters, defectors…these Irish soldiers had switched sides.

  The doomed men were convinced they had done what was right. The plight of the Mexicans was akin to their own. Catholic brother must defend Catholic brother in this war of northern aggression.

  The gallows did their work.

  American history would call them traitors; Mexican history would call them heroes.

  They were the Batallón de San Patricio. Saint Patrick’s Battalion.

  A Mexican troupe of bagpipes and drums honored them through the generations.

  During the outbreak, with bagpipes and drums blaring, the Mexicans who carried on this memory of brotherhood fell in the defense of Mexico City.

  Chapter 1—October 100 A.Z.

  Warm desert rain drizzled pleasantly on the canopies covering Sara’s army while they laughed and reveled over their recent victory against the Southern Army. It was the second morning since routing the enemy, and Sara had allowed double food and water rations. They deserved it—Sara knew her success was because of them.

  They had not yet left the site of the battle. Sara wanted to allow her troops time for rest and recreation. They’d fought hard and would need to fight even harder before the year was out. No point in burning them out so soon. It is a long journey south through savage lands, she mused to herself. She smiled. “Conquering savage lands” sounded like something she’d read in history books, and it made her feel like something historic. It was vanity, yes, but she allowed the indulgence. She had earned a little fanciful thinking about her legacy.

  She gazed out from under her rain canopy at the barren desert. The rain now came down in sheets, dancing across the terrain. The occasional cactus marked the landscape. Small streams began to form from the downpour. The scent of wet sand wafted up from the ground. This place must be terrible in the summer, she groused. In the distance she could see a man jogging toward the encampment. It was one of her scouts, returning to report. She watched him jog toward her canopy, out of breath. She sighed, back to work.

  As he approached, she snapped at him to catch his breath before speaking. Sara hated listening to out-of-breath men trying to relay information.

  He obliged, drinking some water, then coughing from downing it too quick. He finally got his breath and turned to her with his message. “Ma’am, we’ve seen a fighting force southwest of our location. It’s occupying a rundown military base.”

  “Distance?”

  “About thirty or forty miles. We left a few scouts behind to assess their strength. They should return tomorrow with more information.”

  Right on cue, Sara saw Dalbec hurrying toward her canopy from the administrative tent. He had a strange run. It was like he couldn’t lift his feet very high off the ground. It looked pathetic. He ran under her canopy, dripping wet, and it already felt more cramped with his presence despite the large tent. Dalbec motioned for the scout to step outside the tent with him, which he did. Sara raised an eyebrow at Dalbec’s high-handed interruption. She wasn’t sure why he insisted on embarrassing himself.

  “You are supposed to come to me first!” he whispered fiercely at the scout.

  “Sorry, sir, they said you were busy reading,” the scout replied quietly.

  Sara groaned in irritation at Dalbec’s attempt to gain more authority. “Dalbec, are you stuck in those books again?”

  Dalbec looked at his feet and stammered something unintelligible and then suddenly turned to leave. Sara blinked at his retreat and yelled out to him, “You may send for my commanders.” Dalbec nodded, and she turned to the scout and smiled. “I have to make him feel useful once in a while.” They both laughed.

  She did wonder what Dalbec was always reading, though.

  Dalbec stormed to the recently promoted “General” Bowen’s tent and announced that Sara wanted a meeting with all the “commanders.” He didn’t care about their ranks. To Dalbec, the whole Academy ranking system had an arbitrary nature to it. A man could bluff or buy his way up the chain. Bowen was a little different in Dalbec’s eyes. He’d worked for it. The others were counterfeits.

  After delivering the summons to all eight commanders, Dalbec stomped through the sheeting rain to his own tent. It was dark and damp inside. He hadn’t kept a fire going through the night. He hoped the sun would come out soon and dry things up. He lit a candle and flopped onto his bed and grabbed one of the books he’d been reading. The hardbound book was falling apart and left debris wherever he read it. He hardly cared, as long as his collection held together long enough so he could finish them. He wouldn’t let anyone know their content, though, and that was for certain. He acted like he didn’t care about the jokes and comments about him, but they did get under his skin. Sara’s, the most.

  Sara checked her appearance in a damaged mirror inside her tent and brushed an eyelash off her cheek. She believed it was important she looked good for her commanders. Her father always said, “No man wants to follow a hag.” She surely was no hag, but there was no point in inviting doubt on the matter. Her tent guard let the men in just as the rain subsided and she suggested they go outside to talk in the parting clouds of the morning. They cordially obliged and escorted her to the sole patch of trees.

  “I want you to look at something,” she said, waving a rolled-up map from the small table in her room. Her assistants set up a canopy over the group and Sara had two commanders hold the map up for all to see. If Dalbec were there he would have noted that the commanders were finally being useful. “As you know, our scouts have reported a rundown military base housing hostile forces.”

  “How do we know they’re hostile? You can’t just assume everyone is as hostile as we are.” It was one of the younger commanders. His name was Drew.

  Sara rolled her eyes at the absurdity of the question. “Because they aren’t us,” she replied.

  The other men shot warning looks at Drew. It was hardly the first time he’d spoken critically. He always seemed to be implying something that none of the others wanted to hear. Why he was still in command of the skirmishers was a mystery to them all. Sara didn’t mind his dissenting opinions—although she always quashed him quickly. Maybe it was because he was easy on the eyes. Either way, their bet was he wasn’t long for his post, or maybe even this world.

  “Anyway, back to the map.” She glared at Drew. “According to this map, it is a place called Fort Hooa… Huaa… anyway, who cares what it’s called, it’s a fort. I wonder about this place. So far removed…Why place men there?”

  “It could be a strategic outpost to reinforce the Western forces fighting the Southerners, ma’am.” one of her commanders volunteered. It was a bland and safe opinion.

  “I have an opinion, but let’s see what the Captain thinks.” She smirked and motioned to one of the commanders to go fetch the “Captain.”

  The men stood around fighting the urge to grumble about the Captain. He was an outsider, and they didn’t trust him despite Sara’s
clear appreciation for his skills and knowledge. Drew noticed she seemed to arch her back a little as he approached. She instructed all the men to salute and show their respect. They grudgingly obliged. Bowen had tried to carefully convey that this practice was bad for morale but his subtlety was lost on her. She enjoyed playing Obevens against her commanders. It was amusing.

  “Captain Obevens. My commanders are glad you’ve come to help us,” Sara said. “They need your assistance.”

  “I doubt that,” he said, squinting in the morning sun. He didn’t smile. Lately, he never smiled.

  “We were just discussing this location here.” She pointed, drawing Obevens’ attention to the boundary of the fort on the map. “The scouts say there are enemy forces there.”

  “Enemy?” Obevens asked, basically repeating Drew’s question.

  “What do you think is there? My commanders say it is definitely a strategic outpost,” she said in a tone belittling their opinion.

  Obevens knew what game she was playing. He’d been repeatedly used as a tool to irritate her commanders and was considered her pet, second only to the main pet—Dalbec. He needed to tread carefully or one day he might find himself on the wrong end of her game.

  “Maybe, but that far from Tucson I would guess it is storage. Weapons, supplies, maybe food. If so, it would be heavily defended.” In truth, he had no need to guess as to its function. The fort’s purpose was just as he’d described. He’d been there.

  Obevens had noticed that every time he said “I’ve been there,” though, the commanders bristled. To avoid a slit throat, he wanted to aggravate them as little as possible.

  Sara looked over his muscular frame and nodded thoughtfully before turning to her Commanders. “Storage, supplies—sounds worth an expedition. The scouts will return tomorrow with a better idea of their strength and then we’ll send a detachment.”

  “Ma’am, if I may,” Drew said. It seems a bit foolhardy, to charge in with so little information on Captain Obevens’ hunch.”

  “Who said I’m charging in?” she replied. “I always look before I leap. That’s why we’re winning.”

  “Yes, ma’am,” he replied. What else could he say?

  Sara left them to the map. She walked off with a confident gait and a swish of her ponytail. The men were quiet until she was out of earshot. Then Bowen turned to Drew.

  “Don’t push your luck,” Bowen growled.

  “It might be the only thing that keeps us alive. She’s no general.” Drew snorted.

  “For some reason, she made you a commander because you didn’t blindly agree with everything she says. But don’t cross the line into insubordination—it doesn’t take much around here. Do I need to remind you what happened to the man you replaced?”

  “No, I saw what she did to him.” Drew’s mouth curled with disgust. “Travers was a friend of mine. She’s–”

  “Careful!” Bowen barked, cutting Drew off.

  “I see she has you wrapped around her finger,” Drew shot back.

  “Our lot is with her,” Bowen corrected. “If she succeeds, we succeed.”

  “Succeeds at what? What exactly is the goal here?”

  “The goal is that our children won’t ever know what a zombie looks like,” Bowen said, trying to sound convincing.

  “Really? Then we are going about it all wrong. We create zombies. We turn slaves into them. We aren’t creating a world with no zombies, we’re perpetuating the world that exists!” Drew hissed. He was smart enough to keep his voice down, at least.

  “It’s the only way to win, to capture the territory we need. There is a place down south…”

  “Yes, yes, the beach. The mythical beach,” Drew said dismissively with a brush of his hand.

  “It’s not a myth. Obevens has confirmed it.” Bowen turned to the Captain.

  Obevens cleared his throat.

  Drew glared suspiciously at Obevens. He always looked at Obevens as though he were looking at trash.

  “It’s true,” Obevens croaked. He cleared his throat and repeated more loudly, “It’s true.”

  “And that’s where we are going,” Bowen said, staring Drew down.

  “If Obevens says it’s true, then of course it is. We always follow the dear Captain’s advice,” Drew said before sarcastically saluting Obevens and turning on his heel to leave. The other commanders grumbled and skulked away to gnaw further on the controversy, leaving Bowen and Obevens alone.

  Obevens turned to Bowen. They shared the same troubled look, and for the same reason. “They will eventually find out I don’t know anything about a beach,” Obevens whispered.

  “Maybe—but until then, keep lying.”

  Sara walked past her tent to one of her message runners who stood ready day and night. He was hunched over picking at a sore on his foot but snapped to attention when he noticed her approaching.

  “Tell the men we’re going to have a little fun,” she smiled. He nodded, excited to spread the word and ran off to organize a gathering.

  “Dalbec!” she shouted.

  He erupted from his tent, then turned to set his book back inside before jogging to her.

  “What are you reading?”

  “Nothing. Just…nothing,” he stammered.

  She tilted her head. “Fine. Have some carts put in a circle and go get the mascot.”

  Her orders were obeyed.

  Two Southern Army prisoners were brought out with their hands bound behind their backs and hoods over their heads. They were put in a large circle of carts. Each was stabbed in both legs, which dropped them to the ground. A crowd gathered around to watch the spectacle. As two handlers began leading the mascot all the men began chanting, “Jack, Jack, Jack!” It gave Sara a slight shudder to hear his name, but she shook it off. They led the walker, her former husband, into the cart circle with the two prisoners. He had a large “J” painted on his chest with blood. The men cheered louder. Dalbec shook his head at the frivolity but realized you couldn’t deny the men their fun.

  Sara sat in a chair next to Dalbec, who squirmed in his seat. She looked at him and wondered. Something seemed odd about him lately. Well, he was always odd, but this was different. She brushed it aside and tried to enjoy the festivities as Jack shuffled toward the two prisoners, who quickly realized how the event was going to play out.

  The next day the scouts returned and reported what they’d seen, which wasn’t much help. They’d been unable to ascertain the strength of the forces at the military base. For all they knew, there could be a hundred or a thousand men defending it. They had only observed occasional guards and sentries. They also couldn’t confirm whether they had been spotted or not.

  “Even if it’s a thousand men, that isn’t enough for us to worry about.”

  Sara and her commanders were gathered around the map showing the location of the fort. They had packed into her tent to avoid the midday sun.

  Bowen was concerned. “Our men have no experience attacking a fortified position. If the enemy is firmly entrenched with strong defenses, we could be in for a long siege.”

  “True,” Sara said. She put her finger on her chin and looked at the map. “Everyone out, except Bowen and Obevens.”

  The men left, and Bowen and Obevens sat on the tent’s wooden chairs. They were comfortable surrounds, with clean canvas and dried fruit in a basket.

  Sara continued to study the map, ignoring the two men. Finally, she spoke in a low voice. “What’s there, Obevens?” she asked, not looking up.

  He shook his head. He had to admit, she was good at reading people. “What do you mean?” he asked.

  “I know you’ve been there.”

  Obevens slowly exhaled. “It’s just as I said. Storage. Weapons, food, supplies. It’s well-stocked. It is also well-defended. I don’t know the numbers, but probably closer to a thousand men than a hundred.”

  He was filled with self-loathing every time he helped her. But right then, it was his only way to extend his life so he cou
ld get out of this mess. To get back to Ellie. Obevens could still see the look on her face as Guirguis had led him back to Academy territory.

  “So is it worth attacking?” Sara asked, examining Obevens.

  “I can’t answer that for you. I don’t know how much they have in storage. I never made it past the base commander’s office,” he lied. “Your brother – errr, Sal—was trying to haggle for maps.”

  “Maps? He was interested in maps? I’ve never known my brother to take an interest…” She trailed off in a private thought for a moment. “What do you think, General Bowen?”

  The general was intently looking at the map as though it contained some hidden piece of information. “If you are willing to take the risk, I think we should have a look.” His job in this instance was to discern what Sara wanted and suggest that.

  Sara nodded and gestured for him to set things in motion. He stood and saluted before leaving the tent. Obevens rose as Bowen left, hoping to leave as well.

  “Hold on, Captain.” Sara got up from her chair. She took a step toward him with her arms folded. She looked straight at him but he stared at the tent wall behind her. “Why are you pretending to know less than you do?”

  “I don’t want to aggravate your commanders.”

  “Don’t worry about them. I’ll make sure you’re protected,” she winked before turning to dismiss him. She wanted to pore over the map some more.

  ***

  They headed out early the next day. She could tell the men were unhappy about mobilizing, but they would get over it. Without some hardship in their lives, they would get complacent and begin to act like kings, entitled to leisure and comfort. She had to keep them busy, moving, fighting.

  The march to Sierra Vista needed to be fast. This meant a small force. Of the 15,000 zombies and 12,000 soldiers in her army she decided 2000 zombies and 3000 men would be adequate. This would allow them to move with some speed across the remnant of the old highway to maintain the element of surprise. The slower main force would head out shortly after and eventually meet them at the fort.

 
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